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Youth See 20 Alcohol Ads Per Hour On Social Media, Study Reveals


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Young Australians are being bombarded with alcohol ads on social media platforms, with an alarming exposure rate of one ad every three minutes, according to recent research from the University of Queensland. The study reveals the current self-regulated advertising model in Australia fails to safeguard minors and young adults from potentially damaging alcohol-related content, highlighting the social media effects on youth. The study had 125 participants, aged between 17 and 24, scroll through Facebook and Instagram for 30 minutes. They took screenshots of any alcohol-related ads they encountered, with a total of 796 ads found, illustrating the prevalence of social media targeted ads. This meant one ad was encountered every two minutes and 43 seconds on average, indicating a high exposure rate. The research team highlighted the lack of an effective overarching regulatory body, which has led to a surge in alcohol ads targeting young adults and even minors, underscoring the issue of social media alcohol advertising. The content, often using youth-oriented genres and reward appeals, is more likely to influence underage drinkers than adults of legal drinking age. The study further suggested that the high visibility of these ads is likely influencing young people’s attitudes towards drinking, with 39% of 12–17-year-olds in Australia reporting having seen online alcohol advertising. A correlation has been found between exposure to online alcohol ads and increased youth consumption, early initiation of drinking, and riskier drinking patterns, emphasizing the detrimental social media effects on youth. The current advertising model in Australia leaves alcohol companies responsible for their own advertising behaviors, a self-regulation model that has come under scrutiny. Despite a general decline in drinking among young adults worldwide, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2022–2023 found about 42% of people aged 18–24 in Australia engaged in risky drinking. The research team stressed the need for measures similar to those in European countries like Finland, Norway, and Sweden, where independent statutory bodies ensure alcohol ads comply with their respective codes. They also pointed to the Association of New Zealand Advertisers, which offers a voluntary liquor advertising pre-vetting service to aid alcohol companies in complying with the country’s advertising code. The introduction of an independent alcohol advertising administration in Australia could significantly protect young people from exposure to marketing that promotes underage or risky drinking, further emphasizing the importance of addressing the issue of social media targeted ads. The study concluded by emphasizing that both alcohol and social media companies should be held accountable for targeting vulnerable populations.

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